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Jyothi Venkatachalam
Story provided by Abhyasa School of Dance

Jyoti Venkatachalam’s Abhyasa School of Dance recently presented the Arangetram of Meghna Patel at the Neel Performing Arts Center in Bradenton.

The impeccable taste of Guru Jyothi Venkatachalam was evident in every nuance of the presentation, be it in the choice of the dances presented, elegant costumes, style of presentation or the music accompanying the dancers. Nearly 550 people attended the performance.

Meghna Patel with Guru Jyothi Venkatachalam.

Patel began the performance with Pushpanjali, a traditional invocatory dance. Jatiswaram in Ragam Chakravakam provided a glimpse into the purity of the style. The Varnam was the “piece de resistance” of the program.

Patel then presented Madhurashtakam followed by a Meera bhajan. The highlight was a Padam in Telugu ‘Natinchu,’ which was a jugalbandi between the dancer, guru and percussionist.

The Tillana was the finale to evening’s program. Set to the Ragam “Hindolam,“ it was choreographed with swift, brisk movements in the changing rhythm patterns.

The performance was highlighted by excellent rendering of the songs by Sudev Warrier. Accompanying him were Sudaman Warrier on the Mridangam and Krishna Prasad on the flute. The program was introduced and explained by Sharmishta Sarkar as the master of ceremonies. Kala Gangadharan deserves credit for dressing up Patel immaculately and looking after backstage needs.

Jyothi Venkatachalam has been teaching Indian classical Bharat Natyam and traditional folk dances in the Tampa Bay area for the last 14 years. She has been actively involved in presenting her students in all the festive events in the Bay area and around the U.S. Abhyasa School of Dance classes are held at Club Tampa Palms throughout the week. For information, call Jyothi Venkatachalam at (813)-977-9039 or (813)-404-7899 or email


Lavanya Dinesh

In the first part, we looked at some of the ingredients that constitute the raga which is exclusive only to the Indian classical music system. We are now going to delve into the origins of the raaga as well as its categorization and classification.

Graama/Moorchana – tried out by knowledgeable musical pioneers in the ninth century. This system rests upon the note and scale of the voice or sound of the musician. There are 3 graamas and 21 in use. Janya-janaka raaga classification denotes a parent raaga facilitating the emergence of a melodic offspring. Thaat classification is the most commonly used theory by practitioners of Hindustani classical music. There are 10 widely accepted thaats in use, out of which most ragas performed by musicians today are derived. They are Bilawal, Kalyan, Bhairav, Bhairavi, Kaafi, Kamaaj, Aasavari, Poorvi, Marwa and Todi thaats. Raaga-Raagini system – this is the most interesting theory with origins in ancient Hindu texts and treatises as also the beautiful and myriad manifestations of the Almighty. Raags in Indian music are personified, considered sacred and given demi-god status and are thus categorized into human-like groups and assigned familial relationships to one another. Raaga-raagini draws a parallel between the dynamic and the static, conveys the balance of male and female in nature. The six principal male ragas are Bhairav, Malkauns, Hindol, Deepak, Shree and Megh. They in turn have their female counterparts, raaginis namely Bhairavi, Dhanashree, Gauri, Maalvi, Triveni, Desi, Vibhas, Kalyaani, Kaushiki, Gandhaari and numerous others. There are many other offspring known as Putra ragas.

Rasa – sentiments, moods and emotions that ragas convey are central to understanding how a particular raaga can stir up unique feelings and create a certain atmosphere. The emotional quality is referred to as ‘rasa.’ Bharata Muni, a sage who lived about 2,000 years ago authored the much celebrated and revered text on Indian music, dance, drama and other performing arts called ‘Naatya Shaastra.’ This treatise enumerates 9 rasas or emotions called Nava Rasas. They are Shringara (love/eroticism), Haasya (mirth/humor), Karuna (compassion/pathos), Raudra (anger/terror), Veera (valor/courage), Bhayanaka (fear), Bheebatsa (disgust / grotesque), Adbhuta (wonder / amazement) and Shaanta (peace/serenity). For example, Raaga Bhoopali evokes Shaanta rasa while raaga Sarang conveys Veera rasa. Raaga Bhageshree is full of sensual, romatic references of Shringara, Marwa conveys Viraha rasa (an offshoot of shringaara) denoting longing and restlessness of separation from the beloved. The latter two rasas have inspired several compositions in various ragas with Lord Krishna, Radha and Gopikas as central themes.

There are seasonal ragas like Basanth heralding spring, Malhaar performed in the rainy season and many others.

Prahara – An adherence to the time theory in Hindustani classical music is integral to any vocal or instrumental performance even today. There are eight time-cycle divisions in a single day, each of which is known as a prahara. Each chunk of time, day or night, is allotted certain ragas.

Pahara 1, 6 a.m. to 9 a.m.: Hindol, Bhairav, Bilawal, Bhairav, Bhairavi, Lalit, etc.

Prahara 2, 9 a.m. to 12 p.m.: Aasavari, Todi, etc.

Prahara 3, 12 p.m. to 3 p.m.: Sarang family of ragas.

Prahara 4, 3 p.m. to 6 p.m.: Multani.

Prahara 5, 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.: Shree, Purya Shanashree, Kalyaan family of ragas, etc.

Prahara 6, 9 pm to 12 am: Marwa, Poorya, Bhageshree, etc.

Prahara 7, 12 am to 3 am: Malkauns and Kanada family of ragas.

Prahara 8, 3 a.m. to 6 a.m.: Raagas taken from 7th and 1st prahara are performed.

Raagas adopted from South Indian classical music into the Hindustani music repertoire need not follow strict time theories. Some of these are Hamsadhwani, Charukeshi, Salag varali, etc.

Lavanya Dinesh is an accomplished performer and teacher of Hindustani classical vocal music. Lavanya regularly performs at musical venues both in India and the US. She has three album releases to her credit. The artist has worked as a music critic and feature writer for The Times of India and Deccan Herald. She can be reached at

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